Thursday, December 28

pinspiration: new year's eve

I recently saw a post where someone described 2017 as "personally, great; internationally; a mess," and I couldn't agree more. While our New Year's Eves tend to skew toward the cozy (our friends plan a night of Minute to Win It games and appetizers), if this year's fashion offerings are any indication we're all dreaming of a little Studio 54 throwback style. Even a cozy night at home needs a little sparkle and glitter, in my opinion. Let's do this, 2018. We're ready.

Tuesday, December 26

Happy Un-Boxing Day - My First Maternity Stitch Fix [December 2017]

Maternity fashion is complicated. During the first trimester, I was mainly trying to disguise my pregnancy with flowy tops and waterfall sweaters. We didn't tell people we were expecting until second trimester, and then came a point, around week 16, where I wouldn't have been able to conceal my bump even if I'd wanted to! Long tees and cardigans have been a staple, along with leggings and dresses. It was pants that were becoming an issue - I can't yet fit into the maternity pants my BFF loaned me, but I'm no longer comfortable in my pre-preganancy favorites. I found some great jeans at Motherhood Maternity, but still needed some work staples, so I reached out to Stitch Fix to try their maternity service.

This is not a sponsored post. I signed up for Stitch Fix and purchase the items I keep from each of my Fixes myself. I am a Stitch Fix Influencer, and my styling fee was waived for this Fix. My opinions on this blog are always 100% honest and authentic. This post does contain affiliate links - for each new sign-up I will receive a commission towards my next maternity Stitch Fix.

In my note to my stylist, I explained where I was in my pregnancy and requested a cozy Fix with work-appropriate pants and dresses that could be worn with leggings. I was pretty excited about my Christmas gift to myself.

If you're new to the concept of Stitch Fix, here's how it works: when you sign up, you pay a $20 personal styling fee and fill out a profile with your detailed size, style, and price preferences. I usually set my price preferences to "the cheaper, the better." Your stylist chooses five items just for you, which may include shoes, purses, or jewelry, and the $20 styling fee is applied toward the cost of any items you decide to keep from your shipment. There's also a 25% buy five discount if you love everything in your Fix! For a limited time, Stitch Fix is going to waive your styling fee when you sign up using my link - that's right, you can try Stitch Fix for free - if you don't like it, you can send everything back with no shipping costs. When my Fix arrived, I was excited to see the cute Holiday '17 packaging and the small box that meant I'd received an accessory as one of my five items!

Since Stitch Fix launched in 2011, they have become more and more diverse in their offerings - their services include petite, maternity, plus size, and even a men's line. While some of the items Stitch Fix offers can be found in stores, others are exclusive and can't be purchased anywhere else. For me, the maternity service is great because I live in a rural area and most of our local stores don't have a maternity section at all. Additionally, it's been a real challenge to find maternity pieces that are also petite - just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I'm not short anymore! I'm going to include the prices of my items in this review so you can see how maternity items compare to regular Stitch Fix pieces.

My favorite Stitch Fix stylists are Heather and Jan. The note in my Fix explained that Jan was on vacation so Heather styled for me again this time. Her note said,
"I packed this Fix with some maternity essentials to help you look effortlessly stylish in the coming moths. Try wearing the enclosed navy Skies are Blue Blouse with the navy Liverpool Pants, the taupe Dreamers/Debut Cardigan, the Nakamol Necklace, a tan purse, and navy flats for a polished work outfit. If the pants are too long, try cuffing them by rolling them up two to three times for a stylish twist. For a different business casual outfit, pair the cardigan and the necklace with the burgundy French Grey Dress, black leggings, a burgundy purse, and black flats."

I tried on the Skies are Blue Maternity Nidra Ruffle Neck Blouse ($58) with the Liverpool Reagan Maternity Skinny Pant ($78). As soon as I saw "if the pants are too long" in my stylist note, I was disappointed - my height is in my Stitch Fix profile and I request petite items whenever possible. The Liverpool pants are made of a nice stretchy material and have a full belly panel made of what felt like swimsuit material. Although the tag says they are a legging, they had real pockets, and I'm pretty sure they were black even though the stylist note said "navy pants." I didn't like having to cuff the pants for them to fit me length-wise, and they were more expensive than I'm really comfortable with for one pair of pants, so I returned them. I thought the Skies are Blue blouse was very pretty, especially the tulip sleeves and feminine neckline with buttons. It reminded me of the Papermoon blouse from my seventh Fix. However, it's December in Virginia, so short sleeves aren't very practical, and my best friend gave me several of her short sleeve maternity blouses. I was really hoping for some cozier tops in this Fix.

I paired the French Grey Maternity Ariell Knit Dress ($48) with the Dreamers/Debut Bartone Cable Trim Cocoon Cardigan ($58). The cardigan wasn't a keeper because it was very similar to a cardigan I received in my last Fix in color and shape - and this one didn't fit; the sleeves were much too long since it wasn't a petite item. The dress, though, was definitely a hit! This is my second French Grey dress - the first came in my November 2016 Fix. This one had a similar shape but was more flowy to accommodate a baby bump. I love the burgundy color and floral print, and the price was comparable to similar dresses from maternity retailers.

Please excuse the squinty face I'm making in this picture - I'll wear my glasses in the next post! The accessory I received in this Fix was the Nakamol Angelo Fresh Water Pearl Charm Necklace ($44), a three-strand piece with silver chain, neutral colored beads, and a silver pearl charm. The necklace was very pretty but not really my style - it was very "blingy" and I didn't think it would go with my bohemian-inspired wardrobe.

Even though the only "keeper" from this Fix was the French Grey dress, I'll definitely be trying Stitch Fix Maternity again - for me, it's a chance to feel stylish while my body is going through crazy changes!

Linking Up With:

Sunday, December 24

sunday simplicity

“Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the 
river of time flows past. Today's Christmas 
should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow 
and reliving those of yesterday.” ― Gladys Taber

Friday, December 22

Our 2017 Christmas Tree + "I Am" Ornaments

It's almost Christmas, and I wanted to welcome you into our home for a peek at our Christmas decorations. This year I was trying to channel a "winter wonderland" vibe, and after spending some time on Pinterest, my vision started to come together. My main source of inspiration was the tree Bre from Rooms for Rent decorated last year - I loved the gray and silver ribbons with metallic ornaments.

Before I share a million close-ups of the tree, here's a look at this year's Christmas card wall - I used washi tape again since I don't have a bulletin board or display big enough to hold all the cards we receive!

As I started decorating the tree, so many of my favorite ornaments and decorations came out of storage - gold, champagne, and clear glass bulbs went on first after the silvery-gray ribbon I found at Michael's, followed by the glittery pinecones I found at KMart for our "Peace on Earth" tree two years ago. I added a mix of plastic snowflakes and the antique crochet ones that are a favorite family heirloom, and the icicle ornaments I brought from my childhood home. I also broke up a flocked floral pick to give the tree a more wintry look.

Every year I make at least one DIY ornament for the tree, and this year I made seven. We have been studying the book of John in our Bible study, and I have been journaling a lot about the seven "I AM" statements Jesus makes in that book. It's been an interesting parallel to follow Jesus' journey to the cross in scripture as we also prepare to celebrate His birth in the advent season.

The "I AM" statement ornaments were easy to make - I found the plain wood ornaments at Michael's and painted them with two coats of gray Folk Art acrylic paint. I used a gold Painters pen to add the text and also went around the edges of each ornament with the paint pen. The final touch was a loop of gold ribbon.

The last ornaments to go on the tree are the personal and sentimental ones. Sticking with the gold, white, and gray color scheme, you can find a resin Nativity ornament from my college Sunday School teachers, a wedding cake ornament, brass versions of the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina and Mr. Q's alma mater Virginia Tech (I have yet to find the perfect UVa ornament), a paper church, and brass ornaments featuring the three wise men and other Christmas story figures that were some of Mr. Q's favorite childhood decorations.

This year's tree is one of my favorites yet - I love choosing a new theme or source of inspiration every year and combining heirloom decorations with handcrafted ornaments. It was really special to host Bible study here a few weeks ago with our friends gathered around the Christmas tree and Jesus' words coming off the page and into our lives. Spending the holiday with these friends that have become so dear to us is such a gift, and I know that next year will be the most special yet when we can celebrate our baby's first Christmas. I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 18

this week's clicks.

get your week off to a colorful start...




Sunday, December 17

sunday simplicity.

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, 
is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do 
we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” -  Bob Hope

Thursday, December 14

Books I Wish I'd Read Sooner: Revolution by Jennifer Donnely

Every now and then (maybe more often than not) I totally miss the boat on a stellar YA book, and when I finally discover it for myself I wish I'd read it sooner. In the case of Revolution by Jennifer Donnely, I'm tempted to blame the blurbs I'd read, which, combined with something about the cover art on our school library's copy, really gave me the wrong impression of this book - I was thinking that time travel would be a major piece of the plot. It's not that I don't like time travel, but I had an Outlander hangover at the time. Spoiler alert: there might not be any actual time travel involved. I'm so glad I gave Revolution a chance, because it's now one of my all-time favorites.

Not only did I overcome my wrong impression about the structure of the book, I was also almost turned off by its opening scene - our narrator, Andi, is doing drugs with a bunch of pretentious rich kids with ridiculous names who she doesn't even like. If I know I probably couldn't keep a book in an eighth-grade classroom library, I'm a lot less likely to stick with it. But I did, and thankfully Andi left that uncomfortable world fairly quickly - for a combination of reasons I won't spoil, her father forces her to accompany him on a work trip to France (poor kid, right?).  I ended up connecting with Andi for a lot of reasons - I could, after all, write my own book about an artistic high achiever who deals with depression and almost self-destructs after losing a family member in December. Andi's grief over her younger brother's death is keeping her from moving forward, and her father is hoping the trip to France will help her clear her mind and finish the work required to earn her high school diploma.

"Every heart is made of stories." 
- Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution

Andi's father, a genius genetic scientist, and his colleague, a historian, are studying the preserved heart said to belong to Marie Antoinette's son, Louis XVII, who was imprisoned in a tower following the French Revolution. Andi finds a diary written by a girl her age during the Revolution and most of the novel's historical fiction element comes through the diary entries she reads. Everything I know about the Revolution comes from Les Miserables, so I learned a lot from the rich historical detail Donnelly includes in the story.  I loved the French setting, my heart ached for Andi's Revolutionary counterpart, Alex, and I was rooting for Andi and her sweet new friend Virgil. Donnelly's teen characters speak with a Gilmore Girls level of clever and sarcasm, and when the story does break away from dialogue, her prose, in Andi's descriptions of modern-day Paris and Alex's passionate diary entries, is lyrical and lovely

Wednesday, December 13

currently... [december 2017]

Two of my favorite bloggers, Anne from In Residence and Jamie from Perpetual Page-Turner (who became a mom while I was on hiatus! Congratulations Jamie!), have features on their blogs with what they're currently up to, so this month I decided to join in now that I'm back to blogging. 

lighting: an Advent candle every Sunday. One candle, because I went super minimalist this year/never got around to buying additional candles or making a wreath. I ended up popping a pillar candle into an empty glass jar, adding some Epsom salt and glitter "snow," and calling it good - it's the prayer and spiritual preparation for Christmas that count. Ann Voskamp and Tsh Oxenreider have some great Advent resources on their sites if you're interested in starting this spiritual practice but not sure where to begin.

spending: my mornings wondering if I'm going to be sick and late for work or if I'll make it there on time. Thanks, Baby Q. My nausea and morning sickness are definitely less terrible now that I'm in my second trimester, but every now and then the floor tiles start swimming, or I'll start gagging for no apparent reason, and apparently my heartburn is never going away #hairybaby

choosing: Dirty Santa gifts for upcoming celebrations with my Bible study and co-workers. I don't know why a simple party game that's meant to be playful and funny causes me so much anxiety, but I never know what to buy! I don't really want my contribution to be THE gift everyone fights over, but I certainly don't want it to be the one no one wants.

sending: what feels like a million Christmas cards. We did a photo card for the first time ever with one of the pictures from our pregnancy shoot, and I may have gone overboard on the order. I saved money with a coupon from Motherhood Maternity, but as someone who usually just grabs two boxes of cards from the store, there was definite sticker shock.

singing: Hanson and NSYNC Christmas songs - those were the first two holiday albums I ever purchased and they're still the first ones I play every year!

reading: The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines - not super into it so far. I feel like I'm reading a boring e-mail exchange between a married couple.

eating: cookies Mr. Q made with the leftover Halloween Kit-Kats and Reese's we still had in the kitchen. 

wearing: a LuLaRoe Carly dress on a regular basis - it's so perfect for pregnancy, but I still look like I put some effort into my outfit for work. 

watching: Brooklyn Nine-Nine - I started streaming it on Hulu and watch a few episodes a week. Why has it taken me so long to catch on to how great this show is? Also, I think I am Amy Santiago.

waiting on my DVR: several episodes of Saturday Night Live - I haven't been able to stay up very late recently. I think the last SNL I watched was Gal Gadot if that tells you anything.

texting: my sister-in-law and her girlfriend about family Christmas plans.

on my library holds list: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon - I tried to read it once before and failed, but I really miss the characters so I'm going to give it another try.

on my book to-buy list: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones for the Creating & Co. virtual book club - have any of you read it? Is it worth paying for?

waiting to be released: Maggie Stiefvater's Dreamer trilogy (the follow-up to the Raven Cycle with Ronan as the main character).

looking forward to: winter break, even though ours is very short this year (our last day of school is December 22nd, and we go back January 2nd).

craving: Cheez Doodles, Doritos, nachos, Amy's macaroni and cheese, etc. - for reasons I will probably never know, powdered/fake cheese seems to be my number one pregnancy craving. Is there some mineral in "cheese product" that my diet is missing?

griping about: our standardized testing schedule. As if testing in and of itself weren't bad enough, we never seem to be very organized ahead of time, and there are two days when I'm going to end up basically babysitting the students who aren't testing. I have put together an awesome activity for the first day, but for the second I am super tempted to pop in a movie.

need to do: finish my Christmas shopping, especially for Mr. Q (does anyone else find that husbands are incredibly difficult to shop for? Why is that man so self-sufficient?)

Sunday, December 10

Monday, December 4

this week's clicks.

get your week off to a colorful start...

  • I'm currently obsessed with this Apple commercial - the combination of lyrical dance choreography, that romantic Sam Smith song, and the falling snow is pure magic.




Sunday, December 3

I'm BACK! With news!

Well, hi there. Again.

I didn't intend to take a 5-month hiatus from blogging, but it's time to come back, because I miss engaging with friends from all over the place about what we're reading, what concerts we're going to, and more importantly, how we deal with real life when it smacks us in the face and how we celebrate when wonderful things come our way.

What happened in July? I traveled to St. Louis for a week-long training for my new position at work as a school director and instructional coach, and from then on I haven't had a slow day. I had to focus all of my mental energy and most of my physical energy on the day-to-day work of building a culture, helping teachers orient students to a new style of learning, mastering the ins and outs of a new online learning management system - basically, putting on my big girl pants and becoming the school reformer I've dreamed of being. During that work, blogging seemed frivolous. Had I ever added anything to the world by blogging, or was I adding to a lot of noise? Why did I ever think I was qualified to give anyone advice or suggestions about homemaking when I was figuring it all out myself? Moreover, I imagined a parent coming across Beyond the Aisle and, as a result, not taking my school seriously.

So while I am back, I will be doing things differently. I am not going to put pressure on myself to blog multiple times per week, because that made blogging feel like a task rather than a hobby. I'm not going to try to be anyone else's personal shopper or party planner, but I am going to continue to share cool things that I like. I still want to include book, movie, and concert reviews, but only when I'm truly impressed or moved. So why am I returning now?

I mentioned the biggest thing bringing me back to blogging already - I missed this community. Or perhaps, I miss the idea of the community I always wanted to build around this blog. Because reader, I am facing the biggest challenge and most amazing blessing of my life so far - I am going to be a mom!

Right now I am seventeen weeks pregnant with Baby Q. The verse from Psalm 30, "You have turned my weeping into dancing," came into my heart as soon as I had confirmation. Having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), I had anticipated that becoming pregnant would be difficult for me, and given my mom's medical history I had tried my best to prepare myself for a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or the possibility that I might not ever be able to carry a baby. Instead, Mr. Q and I finally listened to our friends who'd been saying, "if you wait until you're 'ready,' you'll never have kids," decided we were open to the possibility of having a baby, nd God made that possibility a reality very quickly. 

So far, my pregnancy has been healthy and fairly smooth - I did deal with some morning sickness first trimester ("morning sickness", by the way, is an incredibly misleading term), and I have pretty killer heartburn constantly, but it is nothing I can't manage. I've lost rather than gained weight, but I am fairly sure it's because I'm trying to eat super clean and be active for at least a little while every day for Baby Q's sake. My mom and Mr. Q's parents and sister are over the moon excited, and my friends at work are very understanding of the days that I just need to sit at my desk instead of coaching in classrooms. I look forward to documenting Baby Q's progress here, and I know that those of you who are already mamas will have lots of helpful stories to share with me. I've missed you all, and I'm excited to be back.